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Teaching Music and Dance in schools: How it is becoming a neglected subject

As Ghana celebrates its rich cultural heritage during Ghana Month, it's essential to reflect on the status of arts education in our schools, particularly music and dance.

Teaching Music and Dance in Schools: How it is becoming a neglected subject

These vibrant forms of expression have long been integral to Ghanaian identity, yet they are increasingly marginalized within the educational system, becoming mere afterthoughts rather than subjects of significance.

This shift towards neglecting music and dance education represents a concerning trend that risks diluting our cultural identity and artistic creativity among the youth.

Historically, music and dance have been deeply intertwined with Ghanaian traditions, serving as vital channels for storytelling, spiritual expression, and community bonding. From the rhythmic beats of traditional drums to the graceful movements of Adowa and Kpanlogo dances, our cultural heritage is alive in these art forms. However, despite their cultural importance, music, and dance education gradually fade into obscurity within our schools.

In an interview with Primary 6 Students of the Wajir Barracks "A" Basic School, they expressed concern over the learning of Music and Dance, however, they lack teachers to teach these subjects in school

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“I like dancing, but we don’t learn it in school, they just teach us a small part in creative arts and that is all” One student, Adwoa 11, lamented

One of the primary reasons for this decline is the prioritization of academic subjects over the arts in the curriculum. With an emphasis on exam-focused education, schools often allocate more resources and time to subjects perceived as directly contributing to academic success, such as mathematics, science, and language arts.

Consequently, music and dance are relegated to optional or extracurricular activities, receiving minimal attention and funding.

A teacher from the Teshie Camp 2 Primary and JHS who preferred to remain anonymous told pulse.com.gh that many schools struggle to find educators with expertise in music and dance, leading to inadequate instruction or, in some cases, the complete absence of these subjects from the curriculum. ‘

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Some teachers with little or no background decide to teach the course and because they do not have the expertise they have little or no devotion to teaching the subject.

As a result, students are deprived of the opportunity to develop their artistic talents and deepen their understanding of Ghanaian culture through hands-on learning experiences.

The teacher however said some parts of the music and Dance were embedded in Creative Arts of which they usually teach the theory. He said these dances are usually learned or taken serous when the school has an event or a cultural display.

He called on the Ghana Education Service to assign a teacher to teach the subject and also organize refresher courses for others willing to teach students.

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Meanwhile, an Artistic Director of Performing Arts Intercessors and Dance Lecturer at the University of Ghana, Godson Atsu Sorkpor also emphasized the challenges faced by dance instructors and underscored the significance of Music and Dance education in Ghanaian schools.

Sorkpor voiced his concerns about the disparity in compensation for instructors, stating, "Sometimes the kind of money they want to pay the instructors is nothing to write home about. Sometimes they feel like you bank your hands on the drums and anything, they move their hands, and then they jump, and that is it. But there is more to that."

Addressing the struggles encountered by students of the University of Ghana School of Performing Arts seeking teaching opportunities during school vacations, Sorkpor remarked, "Sometimes when they write [to schools], and the school tells them okay, bring a budget, they write, send it to the school, but they don't hear anything from the schools again, and it is really difficult."

He said plans are underway to improve the teaching and learning of Music and Dance in Schools. Sorkpor mentioned his involvement in drafting learning materials for music and dance in collaboration with the Commission for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (CTVET).

"I recently did something for CTVET, and we drafted a learning material for music and dance for schools. It is a learning material that gives learning outcomes and I even drafted something on drumming, traditional drumming, the types of instruments, the names of the instruments, how it is supposed to be played."

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Sorkpor emphasized the need for sustained support and recognition for instructors, noting, "In all of this, they forget that these are some of the activities that will engage their brains."

He urged stakeholders to prioritize arts education throughout the year, stating, "It is all about being conscious. We don't have to wait until March. It is only a few people who engage instructors, and in March, that is where we see the value of our culture. After the month passes by, they don't care anymore."

Sorkpor reiterated the importance of proactive efforts to promote arts education and ensure the recognition and support of instructors.

"By prioritizing the arts in schools and valuing the expertise of instructors, Ghana can preserve its cultural heritage and foster the holistic development of its youth."

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As we commemorate Ghana Month, let us recommit ourselves to the preservation and promotion of our cultural heritage. Music and dance are not just agreeable subjects; they are the heartbeat of our nation, beating with the rhythms of our past, present, and future. By revitalizing arts education in our schools, we can ensure that Ghana's cultural legacy continues to resonate for generations to come.

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